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Commission probes use of excessive force by New South Wales police against Indigenous boy

Dechlan Brennan -

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) will begin examining the use of force by NSW Police Thursday, along with other systemic issues related to the arrest and detention of children.

The LECC, as part of operation Mantus, is investigating allegations that excessive force was used by New South Wales Police Force in their arrest of a 14-year-old Indigenous boy, known as YPM1.

It comes in the wake of a string of incidents that have drawn widespread criticism of the NSW police and their use of force.

YMP1 sustained injuries that were described by Redfern Legal Centre (RLC) as “serious and horrific,” during his apprehension and arrest by NSW police on 11 September, 2022. The investigation is focusing on both his initial apprehension, and other issues arising from his detention in custody after the arrest.

Samantha Lee, the senior solicitor with RLC’s police accountability practice, and who is representing YPM1, says that the use of force by the NSW police is of “enormous public concern,” due to the “enormity of police powers".

“Monitoring, transparency and accountability is critical, not just for the for benefit of the community but also the benefit of police,” she said.

The LECC says “systemic issues within the NSW Police Force have arisen out of this incident”.

Some of these issues include: the role of the custody manager; responsible for people in custody, the interviewing by police of people after those people have been given legal advice not to be interviewed, and the use of body worn videos.

RLC and Ms Lee say that another systemic issue in the LECC investigation is the use of force by police.

“The use of force is a systemic issue,” Ms Lee said.

“Communities who are policed disproportionately, including First Nations people, young people, and people with living with disability and/or mental illness will also experience excessive use of force by NSW Police disproportionately.”

“NSW Police must face greater scrutiny and oversight on this issue.  The public LECC hearing is a forum to ensure accountability and transparency on use of force.”

The serious nature of the allegations surrounding the treatment of YPM1 are not the only recent incidents which have shone a spotlight on the NSW police.

On Wednesday evening, 95 year old Clare Nowland, who weighed 43 kg and requried the use of a walking frame, passed away after being allegedly tasered by police when she brandished a steak knife at the Yallambee Lodge aged care facility in Cooma.

Senior Constable Kristian White, 33, was charged on Wednesday evening with recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb has defended the refusal to release body cam footage of the incident, as well as her own current to currently not having viewed it.

At a press conference on Wednesday evening Webb said that the event had been “traumatic for everyone in the police force”.

Ms Nowland’s death comes only two days after Constable Ryan Barlow was found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm for the June 2020 arrest of another 14-year-old Indigenous teenager.  Barlow was filmed sweeping the boys legs from under him, a method not taught by NSW police, but not prohibited.

Magistrate Rami Attia stated that “the risk or danger sought to be prevented was either minimal or nonexistent at best,” and that the statements made by Barlow didn’t match the footage, nor his statements in the aftermath of the incident.

National Indigenous Times has contacted NSW Police for comment.

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